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Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Islanders Move to Brooklyn: AKA: We're talking Hockey...

So, let's talk hockey...

I know, I know, I already hear you, "But this is an entertainment blog. I want to read about fun tv/film/theatre/general geekery! Not sports."

Well, sorry folks, I am a tried and true hockey fan. I have literally been attending games since I was a fetus, and while life/work has come and made it harder for me to attend/watch games I still firmly stand in the "Hockey is Awesome" camp.

Needless to say, the hockey strike makes me cry a bit inside, but that's not why I'm writing this. I am indulging in this slightly off topic excursion because this past Wednesday it was announced that after 40 years the New York Islanders would be moving to The Barclay Arena in 2015. When the announcement was made on Wednesday I received more than a few texts/messages asking my thoughts on the issue.

That's right, as you probably deduced from that last sentence, I am an Islanders fan. I grew up 15 mins from Nassau Coliseum. My father has been a fan of the Islanders since they were formed. He was there for the dynasty. When my sister, also became a fan and we attended countless, picnics, charity events and the like. During those years New Yorkers, at least those on LI were proud of their scrappy little team. The New York Islanders were part of the community. When I was 3 years old, the team was doing a charity bowling event at our local bowling ally and my family went to cheer them on. My father had me up on his shoulders so I could see, and I began chanting "RUDY, RUDY, RUDY" when I saw my favorite player at the time, goalie Kelly Rudy, come up to bowl. 
Denis Potvin, left, and Bryan Trottier May 1980 Photo Credit: Richard Drew/Associated Press

I grew up with names like Bobby Nystrom, Billy Smith, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier  even Meeko Mäkelä  which as a child I miss pronounced as Meatball Mäkelä,were as familiar to me as Derick Jetter is to a child today. As I grew older the players changed, and the Stanley victories got further and further away, and yet I still cheered them on.

And while I am loyal, almost to a fault, I have often times followed players to other teams, I still root Zdeno Chara on and was so happy when he finally got a cup win, and more vehemently, I have followed Tim Connolly from the Islanders, to the Buffalo Sabers, to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Honestly that boy is one of the best puck handlers I've ever seen, if only he could stay UNINJURED.  
(Photo Credit Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Side note: I will follow a player to just about any team, except the Philadelphia Flyers, Or more importantly The New York Rangers. I can love you again if you go to and then leave the Flyers, but once you become a Ranger you are dead to me. I'm looking at you Kevin Weeks!

Safe to say, the Islanders have always been my boys, and the Coliseum has always been home. Now, I am by no means saying the Coliseum is a perfect place. There's no real convenient mode of public transportation to get there  its old, and in slight disrepair. Lets be honest here, it's kind of a shithole. The thing is, it's our shithole. As a person who often rejects change you would think I would be outraged by a change of venue, but I'm not entirely opposed.

Hockey itself isn't the most popular sport. In fact there are a lot of people in this country that have been to or even seen a hockey game. I feel bad for these people I really do. Hockey is awesomely fast paced, as in the clock actually shows you how is left and 3 mins doesn't really mean another half hour, it's kinda  violent… I don't care how much you protest, almost everyone enjoys a good fight, and you have to have a ridiculous amount of skill in order to play. How does that not sound awesome, people?

December 25, 2009  Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America
But I digress, the fact of the matter is that by moving the franchise to Brooklyn, you are making the games much more accessible to a larger amount of people. If I can hop a subway to the game right from work, I am much more willing to drop money on tickets. Playing at the Coliseum I have to book it from work and then with travel time I usually end up missing the entire first period and a portion of the second. For those of you really unfamiliar with hockey, I should probably enlighten you to the fact that there are 3 periods to a game.  So that's missing nearly half a game just trying to get there. By moving to an arena more easily accessible there is great potential to increase your attendance.

Let's face it the current team itself isn't really a crowd drawer. We have (well, had last year, stupid lockout) John Trevaris, Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, who while good players are not star names like Martin Brodour, or Sydney Crosby. So why shouldn't the owners be doing everything the can to up the attendance, which will bring in more money, to then invest into the team?

The Islanders, for the past, gonna go with decade here, have always felt, at least to me, like the breeding ground for great players. Only problem, The Powers That Be in the land of all things that be Islanders have the uncanny knack for trading away plays just before the get hot.  As much as it hurts me to say that money makes a huge difference in building a winning franchise, I'm also a Yankee fan…so I know the truth.

The decision was made that despite the move the team would still be called The New York Islanders, which I believe to be a sound decision. Although I am aware there are some who believe that they should be renamed "The Brooklyn Islanders", after all The Nets moved to the Barclay Center and now they are "The Brooklyn Nets" (that's a basketball reference, see now I've mentioned all the major US professional sports)  I can't help but think that is a bit ridiculous. The Nets has to rebrand, as they were "The New Jersey Nets" and are not playing in/for New Jersey anymore.

I am well aware that both "The New York Giants" and "The New York Jets" play in a stadium in New Jersey so technically your team doesn't have to be named for the state you play in, but cut me some slack here.

The Islanders will still be playing in New York, and technically still playing on an island, so what is the point of an expensive rebranding? Furthermore, in a sport with an already small fan base why would you want to risk alienating the fans you already have?

"Fish Stick Logo" See? It's hideous.
The New York Islanders have four back to back Stanley cups, they have fans, like my father who, despite many, long grueling years of heart ache, seriously when was the last time we had a winning post season? That is rhetorical, I know the answer I just choose not to think about it. And those of us, myself included who grew up with the team, and persevered as fans, even surviving the horrible "fish sticks logo". I will support my NY Islanders till the end, but The Brooklyn Islanders? Who are they? Changing their name is effectively whipping away their history, sure you could say in an attempt to clean away the years of failure, but you would also strip the team of it's history. The cups, the eight members in the Hockey Hall of Fame, all of it.  You can't have it both ways.

Islander fans are a scrappy bunch, we love our team, even when they are loosing, which is often. Every win is exciting, not expected. The team moving to Brooklyn is the next chapter in our history, not the end of our franchise, which would have been the case if they has been moved out of state, which was a very real possibility.

And for those who justify the name change saying that The New York Rangers are New York's "only hockey team" I remind you that it only seems that way because The Rangers made the playoffs last year, and were knocked out by The New Jersey Devils, Booyah, and so there was an abundance of fair weather fans. And if you even begin to argue of The Rangers being the better team, I remind you, The Islanders have four Stanley Cups, and yes that was decades ago, however, the Ranger's won the cup in 1940 and then took 54 years to win their next one. So fear not Islander fans we still have over two decades before our cup gap is that bad.
Look at "Baby" Connolly...see the awesomeness

So sound off Isles fans: what do you think about the move and the keeping of the name New York Islanders, despite of it? Hit the comments and be heard!

Fun fact: The (now) Brooklyn Nets used to play at Nassau Coliseum way back in the day before they relocate to "New Jersey", so the teams are now being reunited at the Barclay Center.

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